Saturday, June 13, 2009

Feast of St Anthony of Padua, Franciscan Friar, Teacher, Preacher and Doctor of the Scriptures

The altar of St Anthony, Greyfriars Church in Vienna by Fr Lawrence, OP

Among the Franciscans themselves and in the liturgy of his feast, St. Anthony is celebrated as a teacher and preacher extraordinaire. He was the first teacher in the Franciscan Order, given the special approval and blessing of St. Francis to instruct his brother Franciscans. His effectiveness as a preacher calling people back to the faith resulted in the title "Hammer of Heretics." Just as important were his peacemaking and calls for justice. The saint of Padua is usually depicted holding the child Jesus, or a lily, or a book, or all three in his arms.

Infant Jesus appeared to Anthony in 1231: While preaching in France, Anthony accepted the invitation of a nobleman to dine and spend the night in his mansion near Limoges. After the evening meal Anthony excused himself and retired to his room to pray. Some time later the lord of the house passed the friar's room and noticed a brilliant light streaming from beneath the door. When he looked through the grill in the door, the nobleman saw the vision taking place within the room.

A beautiful Child was standing on the bench at which Anthony had knelt to pray. The Infant held out His arms to the Saint. Anthony returned the invitation by clasping the Child to his heart, crying over and over, "My God! My God!" The next morning Anthony asked his host not to reveal what he had seen as long as Anthony was alive. The secret of that night was kept for ten years.

On the saint’s feast day, June 13, St. Anthony Bread is blessed. And since the saint is the special patron of Italy, an honor he shares with St. Francis, many Italian families have a son named Anthony. Anthony was a humble Franciscan friar who preached the Good News lovingly and with fearless courage. He became one of the great preachers and theologians of his day. He was a man of great penance and apostolic zeal. He was most loved by ordinary people. The array of wonders attributed to Anthony is astounding in its variety. He was in two places at the same time; at his prayer, a donkey knelt before the Blessed Sacrament, after a dare by an unbeliever; fishes lifted their heads above the water to listen as he preached to them, after bored believers turned away; a foot severed by an ax was rejoined to its leg.

In canonizing Anthony in 1232, Pope Gregory IX spoke of him as the "Ark of the Testament" and the "Repository of Holy Scripture." That explains why St. Anthony is frequently pictured with a burning light or a book of the Scriptures in his hands. In 1946 Pope Pius XII officially declared Anthony a Doctor of the Universal Church. It is in Anthony's love of the word of God and his prayerful efforts to understand and apply it to the situations of everyday life that the Church especially wants us to imitate St. Anthony. While noting in the prayer of his feast Anthony's effectiveness as an intercessor, the Church wants us to learn from Anthony, the teacher, the meaning of true wisdom and what it means to become like Jesus, who humbled and emptied himself for our sakes and went about doing good.

St Anthony Chastity Prayer:
St Anthony,
Lily of Purity,
banish from me,
the sins of impurity,
protect my chastity,
and restore my virginity.